Amid a raging row over DMK leaders' remarks on Sanatana Dharma, some Congress leaders on Saturday called for a cautious approach on the matter and the party not getting drawn into the BJP's agenda.
Sources said some leaders, including Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, said at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting that the party should stay away from such issues and not be drawn into it.
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Rahul Gandhi said that instead of getting involved in the Sanatana Dharma row, the leaders should focus on the poor and their issues as they have been the party's traditional vote bank, the sources said.
He said the party should raise the issues of the poor, irrespective of their caste, according to sources.
The sources said that during the CWC meeting, both Mr. Baghel and Mr. Singh pointed out that speaking on the Sanatana Dharma row would hurt the party and will help the BJP.
When asked about the matter at a party briefing, senior party leader P. Chidambaram said the issue of Sanatana Dharma was not discussed during the CWC meeting.
He said the party believes in respecting all religions and cited the "Sarvdharam Sambhav".
"There has been no discussion on Sanatana Dharma issue. Congress president [Mallikarjun Kharge] has made it absolutely clear that the Congress party is not willing to be drawn into any controversy on Sanatana Dharma issue," Mr. Chidambaram said.
"We believe in 'Sarvdharma Sambhav', equal respect for all religions, and we stand by that position. That has been the consistent position of the Congress party from many many decades and we are not getting drawn into any controversy on that issue," he said.
"Please note the distinction I am making...I am not speaking for the DMK, but the DMK has said that they are not opposed to any religion, they are opposed to the caste oppression and caste hierarchy and all that goes with caste hierarchy...suppression of women, oppression of Dalits and as you all well know, the impediments placed on the so-called lower class by the caste hierarchy," Mr. Chidambaram said.
"So, the DMK has explained, it is in that context they have mentioned Sanatana Dharma, but let me make it very clear...we are not getting drawn into that controversy," he said.
DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin recently caused a storm as he alleged that Sanatana Dharma is against social justice and that it should be eradicated. Likening Sanatana Dharma to the coronavirus, malaria and dengue, Udhayanidhi Stalin — the son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin — said such things should not be opposed but destroyed.
Days later, DMK leader A. Raja said Sanatana Dharma should be compared to diseases such as AIDS and leprosy that have a social stigma attached to them.